Josh Hill capped a memorable 2019 with a thrilling one-stroke triumph over close friend Arjun Gupta in the second edition of the Abu Dhabi Amateur Championship at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club. With the victory, the 15 year old secured a spot in the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA, where he will become the youngest-ever participant in the event, marking the first of back-to-back European Tour appearances for the talented youngster this month after he also earned his place in the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic by topping the Amateur Journey to Jordan (Order of Merit).
Hill, who became the youngest ever winner of an Official World Golf Ranking event last year at the MENA Tour’s Al Ain Open, started the final day with a two-stroke advantage over Austria’s Tobias Ebner after impressive rounds of 70 and 72 over the first two days. The youngster was three over par through the next ten holes while Gupta started closing the initial five-shot gap between the pair with back-to-back birdies on eight and nine which saw the Indian make the turn in an impressive 35.
In a thrilling tussle down the stretch the duo traded blows with Gupta seizing the advantage after 14 holes following consecutive bogeys from Hill on 13 and 14, before Gupta himself dropped two shots on the next two holes. Gupta’s birdie at the 17th left the pair tied at the top of the leaderboard heading to the last but a superb up and down from Hill saw him reach a tournament total of one over par 217, leaving Gupta as the runner-up for the second year running. “I struggled on the front nine with two bogeys and I knew Arjun was playing well so I had to dig deep,” said Hill, who also collects World Amateur Golf Ranking points with his triumph in the capital. “The birdie at 15 was big for me and then winning the tournament with the birdie at the last was nice. It’s a really good event with strong competition and you really have to play well to win it as the course is difficult. Obviously the WAGR points on offer at this tournament are a massive draw and it’s going to help out my amateur ranking by boosting me up a couple of places.”
“Knowing I’ll be the youngest-ever player to feature in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA is pretty cool! It’s going to be a lot of fun playing in my first European Tour event and mixing with some of the greatest players in the world so I can’t wait to get going at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. I’ve got the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic to look forward to the week after so it’s going to be a great start to 2020 for me and even better knowing I’ve earned my spot in both.” There was also a second spot in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA up for grabs for the leading Emirati player which was won by Ahmad Skaik following a dramatic play-off with Saif Thabet. The two UAE nationals finished the tournament in tied 11th on 15 over par before Skaik superbly drained a birdie putt on the first trip back up the 18th to book his place alongside the likes of Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka and defending champion Shane Lowry. “It was a pretty tough final day so I’m delighted to have secured my place in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA,” said Skaik. “It’s a dream come true to play in a European Tour event and I really had to dig deep to get my spot because I couldn’t practice much before the tournament as I had my finals. Hopefully I’ll have the home support and I’ll be bringing along lots of my friends and family which will be fun.
‘CREATE A LEGACY’
“Saadiyat Beach Golf Club is the hardest club in the UAE in my opinion with the wind playing a big factor along with the difficult greens and slopes so it’s a perfect place to host this great tournament. I played in this event in 2018 and it has definitely improved this time around with the standard of players here which means plenty more WAGR points for Josh!”
Meanwhile, Welshman Toby Bishop finished in third spot on four over par with Jay Mullane and Ebner finishing three further back to share fourth spot. Cluster General Manager Francisco de Lancastre David, who hinted at the prospect of joining forces with the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA at last year’s event, was delighted with the triumphant return of one of most hotly anticipated events on the amateur golfing calendar.“It’s great to see how much the event has grown since last year,” he said. “When we set up this tournament the goal was to create the best amateur event in the region and slowly but surely, we are working towards achieving that goal. “Sponsors are a huge part of our success so I’d like to thank the Southern Sun hotel for their support and the Abu Dhabi Sports Council for providing two amazing opportunities to play in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA. “I think this tournament is going to keep growing and create a legacy. The opportunity to play with the stars of the European Tour is huge and we’ve had two great winners this year in the shape of Josh Hill and Ahmad Skaik. It was a great finale to three fantastic days of golf.”